The security situation in the war-torn country has deteriorated dramatically in less than a week’s time, with the Taliban overrunning nearly a dozen provincial capitals and taking control of major road arteries amid the US’s continued withdrawal.

The US Embassy in Afghanistan issued a security alert on Thursday urging US citizens to “leave Afghanistan immediately using available commercial flight options.”

The Embassy urged those who cannot afford to purchase an airline ticket to contact the diplomatic mission. “If you are a US citizen and delaying your departure while you await an immigrant visa for a spouse or minor child, please contact us immediately.”

The mission also called on Americans still in the country to enrol in its ‘Smart Traveler Enrollment Programme’ to receive access to security updates and allow the Embassy to contact individuals in case of an emergency, including “in the event of a future official evacuation flight.”

The Embassy warned that “given the security conditions and reduced staffing,” its “ability to assist US citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited even within Kabul.”

The security alert comes amid a dramatic deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan, with the Taliban capturing 11 cities, with reports that street battles are underway in Herat – Afghanistan’s third-largest city, on Thursday.

The State Department ordered a reduction of staff at the US’s Kabul Embassy in late April, after President Biden announced that US forces would be withdrawing from the country after over 19 years of occupation. The State Department justified its decision at the time by citing “increasing violence and threat reports in Kabul.”

Afghanistan has long been listed as a Level 4 – ‘Do Not Travel’ nation by US government, with the State Department citing a long list of threats including crime, civil unrest, kidnapping, terrorism, armed conflict, and the coronavirus.